Mike Dunford tells a compelling story today at The Questionable Authority:
Yesterday, I took the kids to the doctor for their school physicals. I wouldn’t normally subject you to an account of the day-to-day minutia of my personal life, but given the current debate about how we should handle health care in the United States, the details might be of interest.
We arrived – without an appointment – at a medical facility that we had not been to before. We did not have medical records with us, and the only paperwork of any kind that we had brought were the forms that needed to be filled out to enroll the kids in sports programs. When we checked in, the only thing I had to do was hand the clerk a government-issued photo ID. I did not have to fill out any insurance forms, I did not have to hand over any payment of any kind, and I didn’t touch a clipboard. Within two hours, both the children had been seen by a doctor, received physical exams, had their shot records checked and brought up to date where necessary, and I’d been given the completed school and sports forms.
That’s not fiction, and it’s not a prediction of what could happen in the future. That happened yesterday, it happened in the United States, and it happened in a health care system that’s owned and operated by the Federal Government.
That’s right. I got to use the dreaded socialized medicine yesterday, because I’ve got access to the Department of Defense’s medical system.
We didn’t have to fill out forms yesterday because all the paperwork that needed to be done to switch our primary care doctor from one in Florida to one in Alabama was done when my wife checked in to her new assignment. We didn’t need to bring records, because both facilities have access to the same electronic system. All that the clinic needed to access the records was my wife’s information.
I mention this because it reminded me so much of something I wrote about previously on my blog:
I had a great trip to the doctor the other day. I showed up for my appointment (one I had made only one day before), waited a few minutes, saw the doctor, and then I left. There was no paperwork, no long wait, no money exchanged, and no stress. Basically, there was nothing standing in the way of what I had come there for–medical care.
And, no, I don’t live in some fantasy world.
I live in England.
I love universal health care, and for me it’s because of the small things. I never had any major problems with my health insurance in the U.S., but I still had to fill out a ton of paperwork every time I went to the doctor, I couldn’t always see the doctor I wanted to see, and I had to pay those really annoying co-payments. At least I had health insurance in the U.S., though, unlike over the millions of people left without coverage in the richest nation in the world. For these people, universal health care isn’t about convenience: it’s about life and death.
These two stories take place in totally different parts of the world and under very different circumstances, but the one thing they have in common as that the both involve typically positive experiences with nationalized… or, dare I say, socialized… medicine. There is nothing unique about these stories, as these sorts of events happen to people across the globe daily. You just rarely hear about them.
In fact, that the spectre of socialized medicine–with all of the obligitory cherry-picked horror stories–has been raised at all in regards to the current health care reform efforts says much more about the unfortunate state of political dialogue in the US than it does about differences in medical care. Let’s get one thing straight: socialized medicine is not even on the table right now. And, that’s incredibly unfortunate, as the greatest problems with the American system stem from the incredible inefficiency and constant confusion that comes from a market-based system sporting a patchwork of equally unappealing and often unaccessible private insurance options. Whatever form health care reform finally takes, America will still have the most conservative, privatized, and inefficient health care system of all Western industrialized nations. The political dialogue in the US is just so incredibly skewed to the right that special interests are able to fight tooth and nail against these very meager reforms–and do it effectively.
It’s true that socialized medicine is no panacea for all of society’s health care-related problems. Just as Mike is very forthcoming about the shortcomings of the socialized medicine he has experienced, I’ll be the first to point out the problems with the British system. Namely, it’s underfunded. If we in the US spent what we spend now on a nationalized system, it would put the British medical system to shame. Big time.
Despite the skepticism I’ve expressed about current health care reform efforts in the US, though, let me be perfectly clear: it is of great importance that such reforms happen now in whatever form they take. True comprehensive change on this front in the US is going to have to be incremental. That’s made all the more obvious by the more-visible-than-usual congressional sausage-making factory that has been on display over the last couple of months, as Republicans and conservative Democrats do everything in their power to stall meaningful reforms. Regardless, the situation in the US is so dire that any move in the right direction is something to be embraced openly.
The worst thing we could do would be to stick with the status quo.